Image credit: Victoria N. Drago, Juliette M. Devos, Matthew P. Blakeley, V. Trevor Forsyth, Andrey Y. Kovalevsky, Constance A. Schall & Timothy C. Mueser. Microgravity crystallization of perdeuterated tryptophan synthase for neutron diffraction. npj Microgravity, 8, Article number 13, May 4, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41526-022-00199-3 Figure 3. (a & b)
Drago et al report the neutron diffraction quality crystals of Salmonella typhimurium tryptophan synthase in the Nature journal npj Microgravity 8, Article number 13, published May 4, 2022. The improvement of the quality of crystals were obtained in microgravity using the Toledo Crystallization Box (TCB), which uses quartz capillaries (to house the protein solution), MWCO dialysis tubing, Tygon tubing (to hold the dialysis tubing in place), and a sealed polyproylene bag to hold the mother liquor. Crystallography grade bees produced the beeswax (HR4-312) used to seal one end of the capillary. Thus, keeping bees busy in space. Figure 2 (a) below is from the journal and shows what one capillary looks like.
The use of microgravity on the International Space Station made the diffraction resolution of 2.1 Å possible. With the work done by Drago et al., there are potential health related benefits that may come in the form of new antibiotics and increased usage of microgravity to help with other difficult to crystallize proteins .